Shellie holds a degree in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a minor in Psychology, Sociology and Social Studies. A devoted mother of four, Shellie previously worked on staff with Northbrook Church as the King’s Kids ministry assistant (serving children in grades 2nd through 5th). Shellie’s YA novel, Driven, is available from Risen Fiction and her middle grade chapter book The Wishing Ring will release February 2012. She is an active member of SCBWI and ACFW as well as a contributing author for various blogs. Shellie is located in southeastern Wisconsin.
Welcome to The Mind’s Eye, Shellie. Can you tell us about your book?
Hi, C.K. Thanks for having me here today. My book is about a girl, Robyn, who loves her friends, enjoys her youth group, and looks forward to hanging with the new guy, Caleb Montague. But a caustic news reporter challenges her school’s prayer team, forcing Robyn to choose between defending the group’s right to meet on campus and pray for whomever they wish or back down at the principal’s request.
She must learn what God wants her to do. And learn fast, because there’s a supernatural enemy, a demon named Sebastian, whose sole mission is to stop her—no matter the cost.
Sounds great. Who did you write your book for?
I wrote the book with my 17 year old daughter in mind. I’d been reading a series she got hooked on, just to see what it was like and it was so discouraging. I mean life is discouraging, but to leave someone there, just seemed depressing. That’s when I decided I wanted to write something for her. Something that would lift her up and encourage her.
What is the biggest headline in your book?
Robyn can’t help but notice the handsome new guy at her school, but she ignores the arrival of another being—a demon sent to destroy her.
Why a young adult Christian novel?
That’s easy. I still think like a kid. Always have. Young adult is a world of possibilities. They’re willing to go places the adult reader just isn’t so it makes the adventure more unpredictable. And since God is the director of my life, it had to be Christian. One way or another, He was in.
I admire that. It’s wonderful to see someone holding onto her faith and sharing it in their writing. What inspired you to write this book?
What inspired me to write this book was the desire to encourage the next generation. To let them know that God does have a plan for them and it’s a good one, even though it may not seem that way right now. This generation of young adults has almost unlimited access to their world with the ease of travel and the internet. They have the amazing opportunity to change their world unlike any previous generation, but they’re also bombarded with harsh realism and even harsher dramatized “realism” at a very young age. It would be very easy to forget that they have a purpose and it comes from God.
What is the biggest benefit the reader will take away from reading your book?
Hopefully my readers will come away with a renewed sense of power. A sense of I-can-do-that, whatever “that” may be in their lives. And of course I hope they come away having enjoyed a great ride from the story.
DRIVEN is an intense book. It gets hold of you from page one and doesn't let you go till the end. How did you manage that?
I love drama and suspense, so to write that way was one of my goals. I wanted to write something the reader wouldn’t want to put down, so that was a part of the craft that I studied first. I worked hard on making sure there was conflict and emotion that would draw the reader in and pull them through the book. Plus I tried to create characters the reader would root for so when those moments come that leave you afraid for Robyn and the gang, you’re really afraid for them and you can’t wait to flip the page to know they’ll be okay.
What is the part of your book you personally like best?
That’s probably one of the hardest questions to answer. It’s like picking a favorite child. But I’ll do it anyway. There’s a part in the book, where Robyn and Stewart realize there might be another player in the mix, one they cannot see, but is calling a lot of the shots. It scares them, but Robyn also figures out that she’s not alone in the journey. She realizes that she has a team she can lean on. It’s a moment that motivates her to complete her journey.
When you write, which comes first, the story, the characters, or the setting?
Definitely the characters. When I start a story, I look at who the characters are, what are their personalities like, how would they interact in real life, How would they react in certain situations, right down to what type of parents they had and what job would they get when they’re older. That way I know how they react when things get tough. And things do get tough.
How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?
A little and a lot. Some of the setting pieces were pulled together from real places I’ve been to or lived in. Having lived in the Midwest for the better part of my life, writing a winter-timed piece was second nature. And writing a novel based in a high school did come from both memories of my experiences as a teen, but also as a secondary ed teacher. But I’ve never gone ice sailing (watched it though) and the demonic parts are purely imaginative.
Are the characters, like Robyn and Caleb modeled after people in your life?
I think there’s a little bit of several people I know or knew in both of them. They’re not framed after one individual. That’s the beauty of writing, you can take the characteristics you want in a person and tuck them away, but you can also choose which ones you don’t want them to have and toss those out. After a while, the characters took on personas of their own and it became akin to watching a movie.
If you could compare this book to any book out there, which book would it be?
Reviewers have compared it to Frank Perretti’s This Present Darkness and C.S Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Mostly because of the glimpse into the spiritual world.
So, what’s next for you?
I’m finishing a MG written with my youngest two children and working on a 4 in 1 novella, co-authored with a Lisa Lickel. We’re also considering a sequel to Driven.
Who should read this book?
EveryoneJ. But it’s geared toward teen girls. Although there are elements of suspense that may engage teen boys, too. Oddly enough there’s a section of middle-aged men and women that have been reading the book. So I guess it strikes interests across the board.
I’d like to know more about your characters. Can you share something about them? Maybe interview one of your characters for us…
I'd like to introduce the main character of the story. Her name is Robyn Stanley and she's like most seventeen year-old girls I know. She hales from Brookfield, WI where she is finishing her junior year in high school and she spends most of her time hanging out with her youth group friends.
Hi. Thanks for the interview.
Yeah, sure. No problem. So tell us what it's like being the main character in a novel.
Well, it's pretty cool, I guess. I get to do things most girls don't, like ice sailing, TV interviewing, and dueling demons. And the hero of the story is pretty cool, too. It's fun playing opposite him.
Would that be Caleb or Taylor?
Actually, I can't say. That's part of the suspense. You don't really know who the hero is until the very end. You'll just have to read it to find out.
Gottcha. Was there ever a moment when you wished you weren't the main character?
Yah. Like when I got cornered into a TV interview with a waspish news reporter. Or when I had to confront my principal. Who wants to do that? I would have shrugged that off on Em, but she didn't want to do it either.
Yeah, she's my best friend, ever. The kind that let's you do all the talking and has your back when you do something stupid. I love her. But you gotta hide the M&Ms when she comes over. She eats them all.
I hear your story has a tragic twist to it.
It does. All because of a demon who can't leave me alone. He's bent on destroying me and he'll use every one and every thing to do it, too. Kinda makes it hard to be my friend...or my family.
Any advice for your readers?
Sure. Don't give up. Ever. Sometimes God's purpose for you is in the tough stuff. You just have to ride it through to find out. Hey, I've gotta go...homework and all. I'll see you inside the covers of DRIVEN.
Thanks Robyn. If you'd like to ask Robyn a question feel free to add it to the comment section below.
**Robyn is a fictitious character and this interview was conducted in jest because I simply had too much time on my hands. Thanks for reading...
Thanks Shellie. Where can our readers find out more about you?
Thanks for joining me today, Shellie. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know you more. Good luck with your book.